April 10, 2020

Fleming praises educators, shares advice on motivating students

By John Shaughnessy

As a former teacher and as a mother of two children, Gina Fleming knows the disappointment that most students and teachers felt when Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced on April 2 that all Indiana schools will stay closed for the remainder of the academic year.

At the same time, the superintendent of the 68 Catholic schools in the archdiocese believes there are considerable opportunities for students, teachers and parents to make the most of the remaining school year as students continue their education at home. (Related story: Superintendent answers questions related to closing of schools)

“My hope is that young people will be inspired by the educators, Church leaders, first responders and medical professionals who have all stepped up in heroic ways to give of themselves for the betterment of others—that our young people will be inspired to seek the ways in which God is calling them to best use their gifts to honor and glorify him.

“My advice to teachers is to continue to keep the students and our mission in front of their minds and hearts. Teachers need to trust themselves as highly qualified professionals who have grit, stamina and the skills necessary to powerfully and positively impact students’ lives, even if it must be accomplished remotely.”

Fleming also shared her thoughts on how parents can help motivate their children to continue to learn during this time.

“As our students grow, the hope is that they begin to own their learning and find joy in the process of learning as much as the knowledge itself,” Fleming noted. “When your child needs a little extra motivation, it can be helpful to take a break, take a walk together or perform some other task together.”

She also offered a few questions that parents can ask their children to continue to motivate them.

  • What have you accomplished this week that made you proud?
  • What is your goal for today? Tomorrow?
  • How do you believe you might use this knowledge, from a particular subject area, in your life?

“If your child cannot provide responses, you can certainly jump in,” Fleming advised. “The more relevant and meaningful the learning is, the more likely your child will embrace it and store it in long-term memory.”

The superintendent also had high praise for the efforts of Catholic school educators for “always keeping young people and their needs at the forefront of decision making.”

“Countless messages from our teachers can be found online, echoing the desire to interact with their children—the students that they have come to know and love as part of their school family,” Fleming said. “The personal phone calls, online tutoring support and innovative teaching strategies being employed are all positively impacting young people.”

She also noted that educators have strived to be flexible in response to the needs and challenges that some families and students face at home.

“For example, if a family of five whose parents are working from home struggle to get everyone online simultaneously, teachers may decide that due dates can be flexible so that the family can easily adjust their schedules,” Fleming said.

“Another situation that has been encountered results from the fact that not all families have accessibility to the Internet at home. Schools have worked very hard to accommodate these families, even going so far as to seek Wi-Fi options that could be covered for the remainder of the school year.”

Fleming also praised the efforts of families and school communities to keep their faith at the forefront during Lent and Holy Week.

“Communities such as St. Luke [the Evangelist], Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Barnabas [all in Indianapolis] have created their own Stations of the Cross for the parish and the neighborhoods nearby.

“To see students and parents keeping the focus on Christ’s passion, death and resurrection illustrates how well parents and Catholic schools have prepared their children.” †

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